By Steve Buckner
Two programs in Michigan — the Michigan Good Food Fund and Double Up Food Bucks — aim to get more fresh fruit and vegetables into the hands of the state’s underserved population.
The Michigan Good Food Fund represents a $30 million public-private partnership loan fund that provides financing to food entrepreneurs that are benefiting underserved communities in the state, said Emilie Engelhard, communications director of the Fair Food Network, which includes both the Michigan Good Food Fund and Double Up Food Bucks.
“Michigan is the second-most agriculturally diverse state in the nation, with food and agriculture being major drivers in our economy,” Engelhard said.
“Nearly 2 million Michigan residents live in these underserved communities with limited access to the nutritious fruit and vegetables that they need. Lack of access to affordable and nutritious food has serious implications for our health outcomes and economically in terms of related medical costs.”
In May, the Michigan Good Food Fund distributed $10.5 million in investments to six food enterprises across the state.
The Park Street Market in Kalamazoo received $6 million to open a second Park Street Market location. The store will offer fresh, affordable food and anchor a revitalized retail plaza, which will create an estimated 13 construction jobs and 165 permanent positions, according to a press release.
Kiar Gamsho, store director for the Park Street Market, said he saw the need for access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other perishable goods for his market to thrive.
“Michigan is obviously an agricultural hub for North America and our products are distributed all across the country when they are in season,” he said.
“But surprisingly, a lot of places in Michigan don’t have access to fresh fruit and vegetables. So, having a retail location where you can provide it and having perishables as your staple is a competitive advantage.”
In the Double Up Food Bucks programs, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Bridge Card holders will have two different opportunities to purchase Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables, according to a press release.
First, SNAP Bridge Card holders can shop at participating farmers markets and purchase any SNAP-eligible foods at the market with Bridge Card dollars.
The program will match what the card holder spends with free Double Up Food Bucks — up to $20 every market day.
And, from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31, SNAP Bridge Card holders can stretch their food dollars for more fruits and vegetables at select grocery stores in and around west Michigan, Detroit, northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
Originally posted on The Packer June 8, 2017.